Lawyer Says Australian-Based Population Expert Released From Iranian Detention

The lawyer for Meimanat Hosseini-Chavoshi says the Australian-based academic has been released by Tehran, which held her for more than a month on charges of trying to "infiltrate" Iranian institutions.

Hosseini-Chavoshi, a dual Iranian-Australian citizen who works at the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, was released by the court “a few days ago,” her lawyer Mahmoud Behzadi said on January 27, according to the state news agency IRNA.

In mid-December, the hard-line newspaper Kayhan reported the arrest of Hosseini-Chavoshi as one of the "activists...who, under the cover of scientific activities, had infiltrated state bodies.”

According to Kayhan, they manipulated statistics and handed sensitive information to Iran's enemies as part of efforts at "cultural and social invasion.”

Behzadi did not say whether the charges against Hosseini-Chavoshi, who works for the University of Melbourne at its School of Population and Global Health and has been published widely on Iranian fertility and family-planning policies, had been dropped without a court sitting.

She was in Tehran to speak at a conference on aging populations at the invitation of the Labor and Social Welfare Ministry.

Iran was once considered a success story in population control, having lowered the birth rate to two per woman from seven between the 1980s and 2002, according to World Bank figures.

Hosseini-Chavoshi was arrested while leaving Iran after the conference had finished.

In October, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for greater efforts to combat enemy "infiltration" as tensions escalated with the United States after Washington withdrew from a landmark nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran.

Iran does not recognize dual nationality and does not routinely announce arrests or charges of dual nationals.

Reuters reported in 2017 that Iran had arrested at least 30 dual nationals in recent years, mostly on espionage charges.

With reporting by Reuters, IRNA, and AFP